Classes, part-time work, wrestling practice — balancing it all as a college student-athlete can be rigorous. Add MMA training and coaching on top of that and it’s a life full of hard work and dedication. But it’s also one that helped prepare South Jersey (Millville) native Connor “The Caveman” Dixon for a fast start to his fighting career.
Graduating from Rowan College of South Jersey in 2018, Dixon has been working hard to prove himself as a mixed martial artist even before finishing his studies at the community college in Gloucester County. He’s an alumnus of RCSJ’s Health and Physical Education program and a two-time national qualifier for the college’s wrestling team. While taking a full load of classes as a student-athlete, Dixon always had his dream of becoming a professional mixed martial artist in the back of his mind and also spent much of his time training for and coaching MMA.
The currently undefeated Bellator welterweight (2-0) credits the lessons he learned about hard work and preparation in college for his impressive beginning as a pro fighter, which has included two wins by submission, the latest taking just 42 seconds back in October when he tapped out Orkhan Ismatzade with a Kimura as part of Bellator’s Frank Mir versus Roy Nelson rematch card.
“My experience was particularly difficult because I was taking 14 credits a semester, training in-between classes every single day in Philly and Washington Township, coaching/training martial arts at night in Millville, and then working on weekends,” Dixon said in an interview with RCSJ News.
Dixon’s college wrestling career helped further his MMA background and build the skills necessary to be a well-rounded fighter, but he was exposed to MMA at an early age thanks to his father, Dan Dixon, who owns his own mixed martial arts studio and coached Connor in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu throughout the years.
Dixon is a BJJ black belt and has trained MMA at Renzo Gracie Academy in Philadelphia, Webb Fitness and MMA in Washington Township, and Impact Fitness and Martial Arts in Millville. Dixon told RCSJ news that his ultimate goal is to sign with the UFC and be one of the best fighters in the world.
After earning his associate’s degree at RCSJ, Dixon continued his studies in Health and Physical Education at the community college’s parent school, Rowan University. He hopes to eventually finish his bachelor’s degree but he has taken a break to focus solely on his MMA training because of the early success he has had in the octagon.
And while his MMA career is coming together faster than he anticipated, Dixon advised RCSJ students in his interview with RCSJ News that “success doesn’t happen overnight.” He added that the key is to keep working hard and never give up.
“You don’t have to be the most naturally talented or smartest person to be successful in your own field. If you put your head down, work hard and have good training habits, you can find success,” Dixon said. “I’m not the most athletic or physically gifted person but I have been able to become a professional athlete and find success through many, many years of hard work and dedication. The goal is to get 1 percent better every single day and hopefully, in a couple years, you will find yourself with a very developed set of skills. Just surround yourself with people who you know have your best interest at heart and don’t give up.”
Dixon’s next professional fight was scheduled for March 21 at Cage Fury Fighting Championships 82 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the event has been postponed. He is slated to eventually square off against fellow undefeated fighter Yohan Lainesse (3-0).
Pat Donohue has been covering sports for more than 10 years. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter and has been covering the University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com since 2013. Pat graduated from Maryland with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. As a wrestler for 13 years in Pennsylvania, Pat has a deep appreciation for MMA and a keen understanding of the sport.